Day 43

We hustled through a quick breakfast to meet our bus group at 8:45 for a quick drive through Port Lincoln, Australia’s Seafood Capital, and an hour drive to reach Coffin Bay National Park, 27 miles west. The landscape was mostly scrub bushes and small trees, similar to Cape Cod. If the land was cleared, the wheat harvest had been taken in. We learned that wheat is their largest export closely followed by seafood. At Point Avoid, we got out and descended down a sandy slope to take in the views along the beach and its cliffs over to the distant sand dunes. On the way, the guide showed us the special remote boat launch used by abalone divers. After many years of over-harvesting, the local government has set a daily catch limit of two abalone shells.

Back at Coffin Bay, we stopped at Pure Coffin Bay Oyster Company for an informative and interesting explanation how oyster farming occurs. It takes about 18 months for small larvae to reach market size. This company contracts with an oyster hatchery for the larvae which they insert into protective wired cylinders that are submerged in farm structures that hold the cylinders near the surface. About every month, the contents of all the cylinders are sorted by size and placed in slightly larger mesh cylinders. This process continues for at least 18 months. The mesh of the cylinders gets larger and the number in each is reduced to allow for growth. This is a very labor intensive effort, enveloped around marine science. Australian oysters are shipped all over the world, but there has been a sudden marine blight in Tasmania that has killed their industry, causing concern locally. Coffin Bay does not have the capacity to fill the gap from Tasmania’s loss. They have started a plan to increase the hatchery production ten-fold but the results will have to wait until the next harvest in 12 months. We saw a video presentation, heard a worker explain how farming was done with demonstrations of farming equipment, and even more exciting was the sorting machinery. The machine speed can be set to their production timing and it keeps count of the oysters in each bucket. In our demonstration, the machine sorted almost 200 oysters per minute. Customer orders can easily exceed 25-30,000 oysters. Last year the industry shipped 90 million overseas. Tasmania’s loss will be felt on the world market.

We had a chance to partake in an oyster tasting and watched a shucking demonstration and learned the correct way to open the shell. Pat and I both tasted a fresh oyster with a little squeezed lemon. It was OK but personally I would have preferred them fried.

On our way back through Coffin Bay, we spotted two emus in someone’s yard. The driver slowed down so we could get photos. Kangaroos mostly come out at night and are very elusive during the day, unless they are on a farm or in a zoo.

We returned to the ship for a quick lunch out on the pool deck and rushed back to the pier for our afternoon tour, Port Lincoln Panoramic Highlights. This brought us to the waterfront industrial fishing marina. Leaving the bus, the knowledgeable guide showed us different types of fishing trawlers, tuna, prawns, and mussels. It was very interesting to learn the different techniques each uses to bring their product to market at the pier. The main tuna boat uses a net, shaped like a funnel, to surround a school of tuna and slowly encloses the catch. The netted catch remains in the ocean and the net harness is transferred to a support ship to “drag” back to port. The speed cannot exceed 2 mph or the tuna will be damaged or killed. Scuba divers on the ship watch for shark attacks on the netted tuna, and chase them away and repair any net damage. This transit takes a long time especially if headwinds are against you. When the catch reaches port, it is transferred into a holding area in shallow water, for a period of time, and harvested according to production needs. Prawn(shrimp) fishing is done around the new moon time. The prawns are attracted to the moon and the craft uses a strong spot light to trick the prawns to come to the surface. A prawn fishing ship uses two long arms with nets and wraps up the prawns and drops them into a processing bucket, where they are sorted by size, rinsed and dropped below deck for instant cryo-freezing and boxing. When the ship arrives in port, the frozen boxes are lifted by conveyer belt to waiting trucks. Mussel farming is newer and simple. Large rubber buoys are used to hold a long rope from which is hung hundreds of thin rope lines impregnated with mussel larvae which attaches to the rope and grows on the nutrients in the bay water over many months. When harvest time comes, they are raised onto the ship, scraped off the line and bagged for sale.

Our guide, Angela, took us to the highest point in Port Lincoln, Winter Hill Lookout, for a panoramic view of the city and islands. Before entering the lookout, she mentioned that a high piece of land on the left, with a 360 degree view, was being purchased by a person on our ship, who took this cruise to complete the transaction.

Back at the ship, we were contemplating returning to town on a shuttle for sightseeing, but the start of a little shower dampened our enthusiasm. Instead, we went to Fun and Family trivia and our team did the worst ever. The winning score was 6 out of 15 and the questions were foolish, we thought.

We had reservations tonight for an Australian dinner on the pool deck. We were at a sharing table and joined Richard and Joanne, whom we had met yesterday on our wine tour. Joanne and I were the only ones in our group who were born in 1948 when we tasted the port from our birth year. Mac tried the kangaroo fillet and really liked it. I stuck with boring steak. There were also prawns, mussels, and other Australian fish. It was a very nice dinner, with ice sculptures and the waiters dressed in Aussie garb.

After dinner we had a little time to rehang our Australian map for the “decorate your door “contest.” It had fallen off the door earlier in the day. We needed to add more duct tape to secure it better.

Entertainment this evening was “The Australian Beatles.” Young men dressed as the originals sang lots of our favorite songs from 1963 and 1964, such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “All My Lovin’,” and lots of others from their early albums. They were excellent. Tonight, we turn our clocks back another half hour, so we will be 15 hours ahead of east coast time.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac